Hueco Tanks State Park - Atlas Obscura
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El Paso, Texas

Hueco Tanks State Park

Explore an incredible range of natural catch-basin rocks covered in pictographs spanning many millennia.

Hiding in the far reaches of the Chihuahua Desert is a group of large natural rock basins, or "huecos." These unusual rock formations collect and trap water in an otherwise arid region. For millennia, humans have used the huecos as a reliable source of water. The tanks were even used as a watering stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, a precursor to the Pony Express.

Pictographs from several distinct tribes and peoples can be found all over the Hueco Tanks, some dating to as early as 6000–3000 BCE. There are over 3,000 rock drawings on these natural catch-basins, hundreds of which are mask designs reminiscent of the still-active Pueblan Katchina Cult, a religious belief in a group of powerful beings often represented by elaborate masks or in doll form. The Hueco Tanks are the only place in North America with such a large concentration of painted-mask designs.

This Obscura Day, join us for a ranger-led hike through Hueco Tanks State Park. We'll be delving into the ecology and geology of the area while exploring clues to the region's unique history and cultural significance found in the incredible images and stories depicted on the surrounding rock formations.



  • Guided hike cost is $9 per person, to be paid upon arrival.
  • Upon arriving at Hueco Tanks State Park, check in at the first building on the left.
  • We'll be departing promptly at 11am; please arrive by 10:30am to allow time for check in and registration.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather, and come prepared for extensive walking and some climbing (the pictographs are located all over) with comfortable walking shoes with tread.
  • Water and sunblock are a must; snacks and a hat are highly recommended!



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